Planning Board begins reviewing shipyard expansion proposal
Belfast — The Planning Board began deliberating on a proposal by Front Street Shipyard to expand its operations with the construction of a sixth building on property leased from the city.
Front Street Shipyard has submitted an application to the city to construct the sixth building, which it would build on the Front Street Parking lot — property the company will lease from the city. The new building is approximately 28,500 square feet in size and is about 69 feet in height.
The building is needed to accommodate a 380-ton capacity travel-lift, which would also increase the workforce at the shipyard by an additional 40 or more employees, J.B. Turner, president of the shipyard, told planning board members.
Turner explained that Building No. 6 would allow the shipyard to work on two yachts simultaneously inside the structure. In addition, it would save customers money because the shipyard would not have to erect an expensive tent outside to cover the boats while work is being completed.
According to previously published reports, the city and the shipyard have an agreement that requires the shipyard pay $3,333 per month to the city over a period of five years for the Front Street Parking lot property. At the end of the five years, the shipyard has the option to purchase the property, which is valued at approximately $600,0000.
City Planner Wayne Marshall said prior to the application coming before the Planning Board, the shipyard proposal was reviewed by the Intown Design and Review committee, which primarily addressed the height and look of Building No. 6. Marshall said the committee determined the height of the building, which is 14 feet higher than Building No. 5, did not have an adverse impact on the surrounding properties.
“Clearly building six is big. There's no escaping that,” Marshall said.
Marshall said the shipyard also obtained a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals to waive the requirement that the building conform with flood plain requirements. Building No. 6 is located in a flood plain and zoning rules would require a structure to be raised six feet off of the ground, Marshall said.
However, if the building was required to be raised six feet in the air the shipyard would not be able to use the travel-lift to bring boats into the structure, Marshall said. For that reason, the variance was granted. He noted that all utilities, such as electrical outlets, would be located six feet off the ground in the building.
In terms of the actual design of the building, Turner and Marshall said Building No. 6 will look much like Building No. 5 does.
During a brief public hearing, Paul Carlson, who lives on Front Street, praised the shipyard and said it was a good neighbor and a benefit to the city. Marshall told board members the city received some written comments concerned about parking and the expansion.
As Planning Board members reviewed the application, parking was a topic that initiated lengthy discussion. Marshall asked how the shipyard planned on addressing parking issues in light of the fact the Front Street parking lot would no longer be accessible once Building No. 6 is constructed.
To address that issue, the shipyard will lease two pieces of property from Penobscot McCrum — one on River Avenue and the other near the intersection of Spring Street and Cross Street, Turner said. The property on River Avenue would accommodate 30 parking spaces, while the parcel near the intersection of Spring and Cross Street would accommodate 15 spaces.
Board members pointed the parking plans presented by the shipyard showed four handicap spaces, but a total of six handicap spaces would need to be identified. Turner said the company has been considering off site parking that would allow employees to park outside of the downtown and then ride a shuttle to the shipyard.
In addition to requiring two more handicap spaces, Marshall suggested he could add a clause to establish a yearly review of the parking to determine if things are working well or adjustments need to made.
Turner estimated construction of Building No. 6 would begin in spring 2014.
The shipyard's application will go back before the planning board Wednesday, Sept. 11. Once the planning board completes its review and makes recommendations, the city council will make the final determination on the project.
Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at email@example.com.
Ben Holbrook is a reporter for The Republican Journal covering general news.
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